2018 - Zhang Xiaoling
The Unreachable State: Contemplation and Figuration.
Prelude for Quartet Exhibition of Ruggero Savinio, Tang Yongli, Giuseppe Modica and Zhang Yidan
Frankly speaking, it is rather difficult to draw the outline of this exhibition, at least from the pattern level. Strolling around the exhibition hall is just like walking through four independent worlds, which have produced so many interwoven topics: the dialogue between Chinese and Italian contemporary Painting, the national aesthetics, and the individuals exploration, the contemporary conversion of classical patterns, and so on: Perhaps people will challenge how the idea and framework of the exhibition formed. It seemed a puzzle, and what I can do is trying to give the answer. With the ignorance of the perplexing images, not to mention the puzzle given by the patterns and styles, we may discover that the four artists shared a tendency of being obsessed by the transcendent world, which not only presents the invisible communication of their concepts, but also mystically implicate their different spiritual orientations. That is to say, no matter using what language and pattern, they can arrive at a similar destination surpassing the images they have created. Ruggero Savinio’s shaping with ray, Tang Yongli’s infiltration of ancient and modern images, Giuseppe Modica's mysterious mirror image, and Zhang Yidan's landscape fairyland. They are so close to us, but we can never reach there. Maybe the idea of this exhibition lies here: to reiterate and restore the nature and real meaning of art by their contemplation and figuration to the world.
There is an undeniable fact in the realm of contemporary art, that the artists have generally lost their abilities to perceive the transcendent world. Paraphrased by Derrida, contemporary art has already fallen into a pure intelligent game. The artists have done all that they could to cater for vulgar values, the pattern of mannerist game, the overflow of intelligences rooted from the admiration of dexterity and creative sparks, which almost cost their energy. This progress left us no valuable thinking except fleeting phenomena and bubbles. The terrible reality forces us rethink about what the art is and what the art should do. if we lack enough courage and capability, we might as well listen to the sayings of the Sages: " Calligraphy begins in the Nature (the General Principle). Since the Nature has been determined, the Yin and Yang come out. Then, come the shape and posture." (excerpt from the Essence of Calligraphy). As for painting, “no matter actual or virtual, even or uneven, shares the same principle with the Yin and the Yang, day and night, rise and fall“(by Zou Yigui). In short, the nature means to comprehend and control the rule of universe, and so does the phrase " to grasp the profound artistic conception and general principle in a unseen world” and " if making general rules into spirit, one could get the real meaning of heaven".
Kant thought: “There are two things in the world. The more insistently we think about them, the more appraise and revere we have in mind----the brilliant starry sky and moral imperatives in one's heart”. It is by this way that the structure of the universe specifies human morality and art imperatives. Based on this, it is worthwhile to insist on such a belief that art is the way for human beings to enter the starry sky. Only with art, which can grasp the profound conception and general principle, can we approach where it is infinite.
It is the artists’ God-given duty to look up at the starry sky, attentively contemplate the general rules, and give out the figuration. The word "contemplation" stems from Buddhism, and it is also called Prajna contemplation, meaning to understand general rules with wisdom, and make self-life conform to the transcendent world so as to reach a certain status of grand freedom for the unity of inner and outer world. Hence, artistic creation is a process of accumulating wisdom and reducing evil desire, and it is a process of consistent transcendence in spirit. in Shi Tao’s words, “My manner is so extraordinarily graceful that it can’t be buried into simple mountains and forests, beyond which my spirit will control. Even if I randomly draw a line, it will carry the meaning of heave, being sensible, somber, and refined. lt has already shirked off the confinement of the earth and sky, and integrated into the natural world“.
In a distinguished artists hand, figuration means metaphoric construction to the transcendent world. So long as the metaphor is settled, the glaring journey towards the transcendent world will begin with the help of color and elements, and that of imagination, memory and experience-exchanging. Obviously, this is an unreachable journey, infinitely close to the destination. That's where the meaning of metaphor lies. It has created a replacement for the transcendent world with metaphoric clarification.
Time, beam and memory are the supporting points of Giuseppe Modica’s paintings, but they have to be “refracted” to the narrative structure of the picture. In other words, “refraction” is both the methodology and teleology. In some pictures, "refraction" plays a secret role by dormancy; while in others, it is the expressive subject. To the viewers, it carries wonderful philosophical meanings: when you see the world with your memory and experience, the "reality" refracted out is absolutely the same as the illusion in your mind as if through the same filter. As for the structure of the works, just as Modica said, "refraction" has created two spaces, one is material and realistic, cognitive and measurable; the other is mapped out, unpredictable, illusive, and attractive. Time and memory scatters on the picture according to the refraction of the light. In a real picture, the artist delicately portraying city, geometric objects, the outline of figures, and he uses peculiar brushwork to release tremendous visional power. Surprisingly, at the back of image, there is a long gloomy tail. In the virtual image world, time and memory, together with the light, grow into a proud and gentle poetry, and symbolically become the companion and guardian of the reality.
Modica is rather a precise thinker than a passionate and romantic artist, which can be seen from his attitude towards art, as well as design for his art path. He focuses himself on contemporary concept, realistic image, classical technique and symbolic realm, which is the most intelligent and the most delicate self-design. The scenery composed by the above elements is very profound and wonderful: Modica’s consciousness, is runninn freely, on and on, like an nameless underground river, between the classical and the contemporary, reality and dream. The unbounded penetration is the most brilliant part of Modica’s art theory. l think this is the right way to illustrate that he is a troubadour lingering on the verge of era instead of a precise professor from Roman Academy of Fine Arts. He is always singing there, helplessly but freely.